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Dayhoff: Judge Weant's distinguished service on the Md. Court of Special Appeals

Recent articles about the June 1 appointment of Carroll County native son Joe Getty to the state's highest court and his subsequent investiture on June 27 have prompted quite a number of reader questions.

Several readers wanted to know more about the four judges from Carroll County that sat on the Maryland Court of Appeals before Getty was appointed — and why Judge Edward O. Weant Jr. was not mentioned.

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Weant, another well-respected jurist from Carroll County served on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the second highest court in Maryland — from 1979-1988. According to the Maryland State Archives, "The Court of Special Appeals is an appellate court. It was established in 1966 to ease the caseload of the Court of Appeals and to facilitate resolution of cases requiring appellate adjudication.

Weant was born in Westminster on April 9, 1918. He died on February 10, 1999 at the age of 80. A Feb. 13, 1999, Baltimore Sun article written by Fred Rasmussen indicates that "Judge Weant lived his entire life in the 1890s brick house on Willis Street in Westminster where he was born and raised, the son of an attorney. He was a familiar figure on the streets of Westminster, where he took daily walks to and from the courthouse."

Many in the community also fondly mentioned his wife, Sarah Morriss Weant, who died just a few years ago, on Dec. 1, 2010 at the age of 87.

Judge Weant earned his bachelor's degree from Western Maryland (now McDaniel) College in 1941. He was months away from a master's degree at Harvard Business School when he was drafted into the Army, according to Rasmussen.

"He served as a troop commander in the South Pacific and was discharged with the rank of captain in 1946. He entered the University of Maryland School of Law and earned his law degree in 1949 …"

In a Carroll County Times article written on Feb. 11, 1999, Boris Hartl observed, "Before serving as a judge, Weant was elected to the Maryland State Senate in 1958 and 1964… He was instrumental in the creation of a work-release program in the state prison system."

Weant served with my cousin, Maryland Del. Wilbur W. Magin, 1959-1967, and distinguished Carroll County delegates Jacob M. Yingling, William B. Dulany and Thomas R. O'Farrell.

"Dulany, a lawyer with the Dulany & Leahy law firm in Westminster … said Weant was an efficient judge who handed down fair judgments …"

Rasmussen wrote, "Carroll County Circuit Court Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. recalled the days when Judge Weant was the only Circuit Court judge in Carroll County.

"'If you were a lawyer, you worked to stay on his good side,' said Judge Beck. 'If you fell out with him, you might as well fold your tent, because for a long time he was the only game in town. He had a stern gaze, and you knew when he was getting tired of you. He'd start to pull his eyebrows and then you knew you had stayed too long.'"

In 1963, "he sponsored a move to allow Carroll County residents to vote on whether to approve the Maryland Accommodations law. The law was the first in a state below the Mason-Dixon Line that required public businesses to open to African-Americans.

"While serving on the Circuit Court, Judge Weant handed down a decision that declared the state's blasphemy law unconstitutional. Later upheld by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, it was the first court challenge of the law since the Colonial legislature enacted it in 1649, when it carried a death penalty."

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